Baker County - - The next time you see a fire burning in the woods, it could be a good thing. This week is Prescribed Fire Awareness week and burners in the state want you to realize the difference between wildfires and intentional fires started to help preserve the environment.
Don't be fooled by the flames. This fire is under control.
"There is a difference. Prescribed fire is beneficial and wildfire in most cases is destructive," says Mark Melvin of the Jones Ecological Research Center.
Prescribed fires are intentionally set.
"What we see here is a backing fire and if you look very closely, this fire is backing into the wind."
Trained burners start them in very specific areas with boundaries. They monitor them closely. Here's why they do this.
Over time, trees and plants drop fuels into the ground, making it easier for a wildfire to develop. Prescribed fires soak up those fuels and replenish the ecosystem.
"In a week, this would look totally different. Yes, we'll have green coming up, fresh growth."
The fires help maintain our quality of life.
"The forests give us clean air and provide clean water so when we protect and maintain the forest in the state that you see this one today, in a sense were maintaining public health and safety."
It also maintains a habitat for quail, turkey, and deer. Property owners who want to burn at their homes can do so with permission.
"We deny permits if the fire danger is too high, if its extremely windy or the humidity is too low, we will deny permits. If its extremely dry, we will deny permits," says Greg Findley of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
Also if the area is smoke sensitive or if wind could blow smoke to the public, you may not get a permit. But don't be discouraged, if you have a reason for burning and you keep these factors in mind, your access can be granted.
"When the conditions are favorable for burning then we will approve that permit," Findley says.
In fact, he encourages it because a controlled fire today, can easily prevent a wildfire tomorrow.
The Georgia Prescribed Fire Council was developed to encourage people on and promote the use of controlled burning. People who want to burn at home don't even have to speak to someone to request a permit.
You can call the state's automated hotline at 1-877-OK-2-BURN.